Becoming more like Jesus is a virtue every believer in Christ strives towards (or at least one would hope so). Whilst this is a great thing, the question remains: what does it look like in real life?
If you’ve been around Christians or in a church setting in certain circumstances you’ve probably heard people say “what would Jesus do?” Whilst this is a great question one can always ask oneself, the answer in theory may not always match up with how we live Christ-like lives. On the one hand, this question could be more than just a moral compass in how we behave. On the other, it can leave you with vague and ambiguous answers, often entwined with a feeling of failure or legalism. There’s also no guarantee that the answers we come up with in all sincerity would be how Jesus would have reacted to a situation – we all know too well that at times our image of Jesus is not necessarily based on the Bible.
The 1979 Hollywood movie ‘Jesus’, begins with the narrator explaining that the story is based on the Gospel of Luke. However, I can’t seem to recall reading anywhere in this wonderful Gospel that Jesus was gentle looking, or had blue eyes and blonde hair (perhaps the ‘artistic license’ has been taken too far on this instance1). The first time I met a group of Christians from South Korea, they had a South Korean Christian magazine with them, with a picture of Jesus on the front cover that had a South Korean resemblance and facial features. Whilst contextualising the Gospel is of great importance, we need to bear in mind that not all our assumptions of Jesus have their roots in the Bible. Perhaps there are things about Jesus we all believe that are not necessarily wrong, but aren’t wholly based on the Bible either?
Unless you’ve been taking a break from normal life spending time with God in solitude, you’ve no doubt heard about the Christchurch, New Zealand shootings on 15th March. As an ambassador of Christ, what were your first thoughts when you heard about this tragic event? It was then when I remember asking the question: what would Jesus do? What can I do to comfort the Muslim Ummah2? As a former practicing Muslim, I’m aware of the importance of corporate prayer to our Muslim friends, and how many of them gather with sincere hearts to pray throughout the day. My heart was wrenching in pain. Yet, it wasn’t long before some were highlighting the fact that this event was given much media attention, whilst similar events that involved persecution of Christians was given little or no coverage. Our compassion for people of other faiths or none may be marred with hearing news of attacks on Christians, including many in Muslim nations. However Jesus’ mission was never hindered with the news of what was going on in the world. Similarly, we must not allow the pressure of any tragic events in our lifetime define the Christian witness to a lost and dying world. Fear and hatred are real, and so is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. If part of the message we preach does not include the fact that the God of the Bible doesn't ignore suffering, rather He’s more aware of it than anyone to the point of experiencing a horrendous death on the cross3, then we’re preaching an incomplete message.
The fact that Jesus wasn’t distracted by anything and went on to die on the cross and rise from the dead means that we have our hope in a person who’s alive. And this God who is alive is doing something amazing among many people groups, including Muslims. Many Muslims have committed their lives to following Jesus because He has revealed Himself to them through dreams and visions. Many have come to know Him through coming into contact with Christians and seeing Him at work in His people. As we draw closer to Easter, let the one who conquered the grave be our hope. As we reflect on His death and celebrate His resurrection, let us not be a people timid by sufferings, but sons and daughters who make sacrifices in the way our Saviour did.;
The answer to one’s suffering is not to magnify the suffering of others, because we’re all suffering in one way or another. Our focus and resources should go into the Kingdom vision of Jesus as He proclaimed “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor …” (emphasis added).
Let me challenge you to see people how God sees them, always. Join me in praying for Muslims4, particularly during Ramadan, that they would come to know the Bread of Life. Reach out to your Muslim neighbours, invite them to your home and build bridges. Let them hear and see what God has done in your life. Pray also for strength and courage for the persecuted Christians around the world5. Pray for those who are frightened and powerless, so that their strength is renewed in God. Pray for the persecutors, religious leaders, and zealots with hatred against Christians in their hearts. Pray that God would open their hearts to the Light of the World, so that they too can experience true freedom in Christ. Let us remember the words of 1 John 4:18, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. May He equip and anoint us all for His purposes as we seek to make Him known to the neighbours and nations!
As we come out of our Covid restrictions and look into the next season for us as Jubilee, I wanted to take this time to share some news with you regarding our next steps as a church.
This month, we're privileged to have Michael Akotia write a blog for us. Michael along with his wife Mabel and three children (John, Keziah and Grace) are dear friends to us. Michael leads City of Grace Church in Ho, Ghana and serves on the Christ Central Churches International Team.
Have you ever thought that there might actually be a number of similarities between our Christian walk and baking a cake? Gavin explores some of these similarities in this month's Elders letter!
So Sunday saw the finale of series 6 of the BBC drama Line of Duty. If you haven't been watching it or have watched the latest series then you can read on. If you still plan to watch the final installment of series 6, you may want to stop here (although it's not a huge spoiler)!